Basic PWNAGE for Skeptics
(A quick reference for how to respond to a variety of challenges from those who would like to believe things that are unfounded or who insist on disseminating pseudoscience as fact)
|Obviously, you can come up with your own PWNAGE for a given situation but some have asked that such a reference be provided to allow a starting point, for those not as experienced in skepticism and rationality. The reader of this is assumed to be intelligent enough to tailor these to the nature of the situation. In some cases, more than one is provided. And for those who might not know "PWN" comes from the word "own" and means to put someone in their place, shoot down or otherwise silence by making a clever statement of comeback.|
Skepticism and the Paranormal:
|UFO’s are real!
Of course they are! I’ve seen flying objects I couldn’t identify. If there’s a flying object and you can’t tell what it is, maybe it’s too far away and you only see it for a second, it could be a plane, or maybe a helicopter or a balloon. Well, as long as you can’t tell, it’s a UFO!
How do you know there are not visitors from other worlds? Or that UFO’s are from another civilization?
Well, if there are, then somehow they manage to come to the earth without being observed by optical telescopes or space based radar. Their propulsion doesn’t leave any kind of exhaust that can be detected or produce any sort of RF or electromagentic fields that could be dected. Presumably they must be coming from a long distance and would probably need some sort of warp drive (either that or their time scale is so much larger than ours that it precludes them being carbon based or anything like any known life), and yet this warp drive causes no detectable anomalies in space. They don’t get hot on entering the atmosphere, they don’t show up on radar. They don’t communicate or sense things by any sort of known radiation or field.
And yet: They do occasionally turn off their invisibility or radar transparency, but only around low-resolution radar or when the only cameras around are far away and the lighting conditions are imperfect. Somehow, they know never to do this if there is a high definition video camera with a low-light CCD and a telephoto lens. Weird, eh?
Crop circles are real! It’s a message from beyond!
You do know that pranksters have confessed, right? And that there’s nothing about any crop circle that cannot be reproduced, right? Does this matter to you?
Well, if they’re trying to tell us something then they’re pretty stupid to think we’d know what all those damn squiggles and crap mean. I mean when we put messages on probes we tried really hard to add universal stuff, like maps of the solar system or sin waves to represent sound. Apparently these extra terrestrials never considered that we might not speak their language, huh?
You cannot deny the possibility of X!
One of Nostradamus’s prophesies which is not said to have predicted the September 11th attacks on the US had previously been considered an acurate prediction of the London Blitz. That’s a lot of flexibility if it could predict either one!
some other so-called profit) may not have described them explicitly
because he could see them but they were beyond his understanding at
"There is a guy who has a square mustache and is yelling at a crowed a rea lot and they salute him by raising their right arm and saying ‘heil’ and he seems to really be passionate but a pretty decent speaker. He has a red band on his arm with this four-bladed pinwheel-looking thing and he really seems to dislike Jewish people a lot. Now, I see these heavy metal machines of some type and hey have some really big guns on the front. And it looks like they’re going into France and… well damn… there’s stuff falling from weird flying things and blowing up. This can’t be good!"
Psychic predictions cannot be right
all the time! They only see bits and pieces of the future
There are photos of ghosts! Not
just orbs but figures and shapes!
Many ships and planes have gone
missing in the Bermuda Triangle area! Many were mysteriously
General Purpose Psycics:
apparently there is some rule that ghosts are only allowed to appear
in the dark? or when few people are around?
You’d really think that at least one would break ranks and just show
up at the 50 yard line of the Superbowl. That would
pretty much close the case on whether they exist, wouldn’t it?
|Why is James
Randi so qualified to assess claims of the paranormal or alternative
science? He’s not a scientist!
Because Randi’s experience and expertise is in the field of debunking and his consistent results speak for themself.
Professional scientists may be experts in their field, but that does not mean that are not gullible or capable of being tricked. They are used to working with respected colleagues and in controlled environments and may not have much experience with having someone actively rig their experiment for the express purpose of deceiving them.
Hypothetical Example: A person claims to be able to light a lightbulb with their own bioenergetics fields from their fingertips. A physicist observing a demonstration may say "This person must have generated a relatively stable current at a voltage capable of illuminating the bulb to a relatively high brightness and whether it is alternating or direct current, clearly they are able to separate the two poles." However James Randi is more likely to say "You didn’t notice that battery that they palmed when they briefly moved their hand under the table, did you?"
James Randi is an
angry man with a grudge against the paranormal and psychics!
The fact that nobody has ever won James
Randi’s Million Dollar Challenge is proof that it is rigged.
Randi would never give up the money!
Why should someone
who has psycic powers bother taking Randi’s challenge?
They don’t need the money and he is so hostile!
Why do you attack someone like Sylvia Brown?
How do you know
Sylvia Browne is a fraud? She can’t be right all the time!
|Are skeptics Atheists?
Some are. Some are agnostic. They can have any spiritual beliefs, however fundamentalism and literal 100% interperitation of scripture would tend to conflict with the mindset… and also reality.
Why are you an Athiest? Why would you want to not believe in god? You must hate religion!
I didn’t choose to be an Athiest. I choose to see things for what they are. I see no evidence that religion is factually accurate in its beliefs and plenty of evidence that it was invented. I cannot force myself to believe something is true when I see no reason to, any more than I could choose not to believe the sky is blue. I’m not delusional enough, I guess.
I didn’t *choose* to believe something because of it’s implications or because it is comforting, liberating, explains things as I’d like them to be. No, I just believe what is apparent to me based on all I know and can see. I wish you could respect that.
Whether or not religion does good or bad or preaches a positive message is irrelevant. Sure there have been many wars and atrocities in the name of God and there have been charitable works and inspired works toward peace because of religion. Whether or not it does a net good or bad is irrelevant if it’s foundation is not factually accurate.
How can you have morals without god? You can’t be an atheist and be ethical!
It’s not actually that hard. Treat people like you want to be treated, act in an honest way, avoid causing harm to others or the environment or society. It’s actually extremely simple.
Ethics can very easily be derived from simple logic. If treat others well, then you will usually be treated well. If you value a just society, it will ultimately serve you better. Do you really need all the rules and implications explicitly told to you to figure this stuff out?
I like being nice to people because it makes me feel good when they smile or say thank you. I like the feeling of achieving something when I help a fellow human out. I like knowing that I have nothing to be ashamed of. You don’t know that feeling do you?
X are evil! They need to be stopped or spoken out against!
(X= homosexuals, adulterers, drug users, masturbaters)
Perhaps they are, but don’t you think it would do more good to focus on the murders, child molesters, rapists, terrorists? They seem to damage more than their own salvation. Once you are done stopping them, we can start talking about the homosexuals and masturbators.
Does the scripture not say "Let he who is free of sin throw the first…" Oh wait. I’m sure that argument has been made to you before, hasn’t it? You really don’t care and just like hating people, don’t you?
You cannot disprove God! You cannot disprove my religion! I know what is real!
No, it’s not actually possible to disprove God, since by definition such an entity would seem to avoid all detection. If you have your own reasons for believing in a higher power or feel some sort of spiritual force at work, I can respect that. The earth being 5000 years old and species being created in a poof, however – That science has no problem disproving.
Believing that there is a higher being due to your personal inspirations or feeling spiritually driven is subjective and I can respect that, even if I don’t agree with it. The earth being 5000 years old is not an opinion and not a matter of conjecture. It’s a factual issue and not only inaccurate but absurd!
The Bible is the word of God! 100% true and literal in every sense!
Ok, so by that you mean the modern consolidated bible? Or do you include the Gospels of Thomas and Mary and Judas and the Gnostic Gospels and the Old Testimate account of Adam’s first wife Lilith? Oh you didn’t know about that? Yeah. Those were considered just as legitimate until one of the committees threw them out some time between 200 AD or so and the middle ages.
And you know this how? Because the bible says it? There has to be some sort of self-evident initial reason or something. Or do you just not like logic?
I’ll grant you that the Bible could be 100% literally true IF God spent the majority of his time fabricating dinosaur bones, tweaking the isotopic composition of minerals, moving planets in a way that makes them look like they orbit the sun and so on. Why exactly do you think god is so concerned with making sure that he does everything to trick us?
I know what is true. I have faith.
You cannot argue with all the millions who believe in my religion.
The fact that we are so committed and sure is proof in itsself!
Prayer is powerful! Prayer
Have you ever really red the
bible? Do you realize how outlandish some of the laws
and claims are?
Why is it that when something good happens after being prayed for, that prayer has worked, but when the opposite happens, nobody says prayer has failed?
Questioning your credentials:.
|How can you evaluate the scientific
validity of a subject? Who are you to talk about how
science should be done?
Although many scientific pursuits are very in-depth and require a great deal of knowledge and training, the basics of the scientific method, evaluating data and understanding the logic behind how observations are made and theories are formulated is not all that complicated and applies universally. Even if I am not entirely familiar with a given subject, I can still tell you whether or not the methods and logic behind a given claim are consistent with good science.
Claim X was
made by Dr. Such-and-Such, who has worked in the field for years and
was educated at Oxford, Harvard and Yale! Who are you to write
How do you know X is not true or valid? You’re not
a doctor! You’re not a scientist!
Science and Bad Science:
Science cannot prove or acknowledge something that
cannot be predicted, reproduced in controlled conditions or is not
always reliable! This is why the paranormal is not provable!
Why would you oppose research on X? Don’t you want
to find out if it causes problems?
So then how do you know you are right now? Why won’t
you accept other ideas?
You say that conventional wisdom is usually correct
and that alternative ideas are wrong. So does that mean you would
have believed the world was flat even after it was proven wrong?
Why do you have
faith in science?
Don’t theories change?
How can you ever say one is true if it’s subject to change?
Isn’t the theory of evolution different than it was?
Nobody is going to argue with you that there are some people who discovered great things without a formal education. Nor would anyone argue with you that there are many times more who have discovered great things with an education, and even more who have discovered nothing with no education.
Science/Skepticism and Education:
Science isn’t useful to non-scientists.
I’m an accountant so when would I ever use this?
It’s not fair for "Intelligent Design" to not be
taught in schools alongside Evolution! Why is this theory
discriminated against and oppressed?
Because the world is wondrous and elegant and amazing for what it is and every person should have the opportunity to see it for what it is. It is superstitions and inaccurate information which cloud the truth, muddy the waters and confuse people. They ultimately hold humanity back as our society moves forward to a more enlightened future where people can appreciate and understand the world and use this knowledge to achieve great things!
|The Attacks on 9/11, the Iraq War,
Afghanistan was all an inside job and a conspiracy!
Have you noticed Bush has been criticized for the lack of WMD’s in Iraq? If 9/11 and all the other events since were all part of a grand conspiracy to get support for war, would you really put it past him to fabricate some nuclear bombs or chemical weapons in Iraq?
If the president really knew it was going to happen, would he have been caught reading a book to kids and not getting up right away? Wouldn’t he be in the oval office and then gallantly take command of the situation or something more flattering like that?
If the Bush administration is really such a well-controlled, evil, conspiring entity that can keep major plots hidden, why to they f*** up so much?
If you are going to bring up the details of something which is still a very traumatic, sad and angering memory for many who simply saw it happen, let alone those who lost loved ones, you really had better have some very serious and conclusive evidence, because a real lot of people don’t consider it to be a fun thing for you to play amateur detective with. Please just go buy the board game "Clue" instead.
Do you know any single witness to a plane hitting the Pentagon?
The US never
actually went to the moon!
Have you ever actually
researched this? I mean seriously. There is no single
claim of conspiracy evidence that has not been debunked. Do
you want me to go get Dr. Plait to lay the smack down on you?
Because could I swear I saw a can of whoopass in his cupboard.
General Purpose Conspiracy
|Why should I take medical advice
from you? You’re not a doctor!
I’m not, and I would never claim to be qualified to dispense any sort of medical treatment or make a diagnosis. However, it only takes common sense to tell you when you should see one. If, for example, you have pain shooting down your arm, tightness in your chest and shortness of breath, I’d recommend you get that checked out right away: I’m not going to tell you you’re having a heart attack, but you’d still do well to listen to such advice.
It does take a doctor to know which treatment might be best for you and whether some are effective or not. However, there are many cases where you don’t need any medical training at all to write something off. Most people with absolutely no medical training could make a good judgment about the value of preventing a heart attach by filling your left boot with coleslaw and burring it in your yard under a square stone on a moonless night.
Despite not being a professional, I can still tell you what the consensus is in the medical in the medical community about such things as Homeopathy and various alternative treatments. If you don’t believe me, you can research it yourself. But as far as general information goes: It’s rejected by the majority of those in the profession
Why would you oppose a hospital or clinic setting up a program of X if patients want it?
(X= Touch Therapy, Homeopathics, energy therapies)
Because doing so will inevitably mean that funding and resources are diverted from somewhere else. I would rather have a facility spend their money on a new MRI machine, training their staff in new techniques or hiring more doctors or nurses than spend the money on some unfounded treatment. This would be especially true if I or someone I am close to needed to be treated at such an institution.
I know a guy who took X and he said it really worked great for him in relieving a medical condition!
(X= homeopathy, an unfounded supplement, snakeoil)
Have you ever heard of the placebo effect? It’s a very well known phenomena which is accounted for in all major drug studies. But don’t tell that guy unless you want his positive results to go away.
I’m not a doctor! Why should I care about health sciences? Can’t I just leave it up to the professionals?
If nothing else, it will help you judge when you need to see a professional. There are plenty of cases where symptoms are a good indicator that something serious could be happening but lives may be lost because people simply do not know they should seek help.
You cannot expect a professional to always be there for the big and small decisions. A little knowledge could help you in something as simple as knowing what OTC medication might work well for a headache and what products are simply useless.
You might not be a mechanic, but knowing a thing or two about a cars engine would still be very helpful in preventing you for falling for a dishonest mechanic or dealer. Isn’t your body and wellbeing more important than a car?
Homeopathy should not be dismissed as potentially useful!
Do you actually know what homeopathy is? (most people don’t) It basically claims that a tiny amount of something which causes a problem will fix that problem. So poisons which cause your skin to break out would, in small doses help a similar skin problem. While this may be somewhat true of a very few substances, it’s not a valid guiding principal in medicine and has been debunked to death. If you carry it to the extreme it becomes ridiculous!
Natural Things are good for me! If it’s natural it can’t hurt me because people were meant to be part of nature?
Snake Venom, Hemlock, Arsenic, Radium, Bird Crap. Need In say more? Sure, some natural things are good for you, but some aren’t. What’s your point?
Plenty of "conventional" medicines are based on natural ingredients, such an antibiotics. Others are synthetic compounds designed to act like a natural compound or trigger a certain response. What is your problem with them? Would you rather just eat a twig and hope there might be some compound in it that will do you some good or something reliable?
When All Else Fails:
|Hey! How can you call me
stupid for having different views! Don’t call me names!
I gave you the benefit of the doubt, but many of your views were very obviously stupid. I eventually formulated the hypothesis that you are an idiot. After this hypothesis was tested and found to be able to accurately predict what you would say or do and given that it is in line with current knowledge, I consider it a well proven theory. If you are going to claim you are not an idiot I will need some very compelling evidence.
Hey! I don’t believe you! I’m right!
Oh you poor poor person. I’m sorry but I really did try to help you with your delusions. I really feel like I have failed you in some way. I hope someday you can see the light.
The stick method:
– Hit the idiot a stick
– Proclaimed that you have won the argument
– When someone says "Hey! That’s totally hypocritical." or "How can you say you uphold freedom of speech? You can’t just go around deciding that those you don’t agree with need to be delt with violently" or "You can’t just hurt those you do not agree with" – React to this by saying "No. That was entirely fair and justifiable."
– If they do not agree with you, hit them with the stick
– If they continue to not agree with you, hit again with stick
– Continue until the conflict has been resolved